If the home hasn't already been upgraded to 200-amp service, it's probably time to do so. Depending on the layout of the house and the area being upgraded, this phase could cost $2,500 or more. Rewiring the entire house will cost much more.
Moisture can be a bathroom's biggest enemy; so new bathroom fans and venting are a must for getting hot, moist air out of the room. Without this step, paint will peel, doors will warp, and molds may develop.
Consider installing a fan on a timer instead of a standard switch. This move allows a homeowner to set the fan's desired running time (for 30 minutes or more) after exiting the bathroom in the morning. It'll also helps save energy on days the family forgets to turn off the fan.
In his bath remodel, San Jose Eichler owner Chris Connors faced many of the common troublemakers: cracked tiles, moisture issues, and a cramped shower enclosure. He also wanted to save some of his bathrooms' original design integrity. "I think there's a distinction to be made between being true to a design and honestly respecting its intent," Connors says.
His sympathetic restoration preserved the original windowed shower stall, a mosaic tile shower pan, and the bath's original wood paneling. The plan called for removing broken and badly faded original wall tiles, increasing the height of the wet zone in the shower, modernizing ventilation, and installing new fixtures and doors.
Connors chose a single expanse of mosaic glass tile in an ocean-inspired blue. He also cast a new threshold in concrete, which allowed him to extend the shower door approximately six inches.
As a cost savings, Connors and his wife Amy did most of the work themselves, including demolition, hanging concrete backer board, framing a mold for the new concrete threshold, installing tile, and hanging the new shower door. They only called a professional to install the pipes and shower fixtures.
"I wanted our remodel to have an honesty -- respecting the goals of the original in terms of simplicity, while adding interest through the tasteful intersection of materials," Connors adds.
So how much should an owner of a mid-century home spend on a bath renewal? The Cost Versus Value Report by 'Remodeling' magazine, completed in August 2007, showed that homeowners on the West Coast usually recoup 96 percent of the cost of their bath remodel at resale.
For those on a budget, it is best to consider the other homes in the area and the asking price of your home before deciding how much to dedicate to a bath project.
"You can find someone to put makeup on your bath, but it won't fix the problems -- it'll just cover them up," Ron Key says. It's actually an art matching budget expectations with design. "In so many cases, homeowners have a design criteria in mind, and their budget level is not at the same level," Key points out. "You have to bring reality to the project, and either bring the budget up or the expectations down. Usually, it's a bit of both."
A high-end gut and remodel can take about five weeks and cost anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000, depending the level and luxury of products one chooses for the new bath, according to Key. "Homeowners really are in the driver's seat on cost, but we live in a pretty sophisticated area," he says. "You can buy a medicine cabinet for $200, but a homeowner will sometimes spend $2,000 or $3,000 on that cabinet with built-in electrical that will re-charge an electric toothbrush or razor."
A standard vanity might cost $500, while designer ones can cost $2,000 to $3,500. Of course, radiant heat, plumbing hardware, fixtures, tile, flooring, and countertop surfaces all add to the cost of the project. Building permits and inspections can also be pricey. Key adds that a permit in Sunnyvale may cost $400 to $500, but in San Mateo that same permit will run $2,000 to $3,000 due to different city management practices.
James Fanning of USA Builders, a general contractor with a focus on both small as well as large Eichler projects on the Peninsula, is sympathetic to homeowners who have less money to spend for remodeling. Fanning indicates he's completed cosmetic bath remodels for $8,000 to $9,000.
"A lot of these homes are worth a lot of money, but their homeowners still do work on a budget," Fanning says. "Ninety percent of the people we talk to are interested in saving money and having a nice finished product that's functional but not over the top."